Is your home chilly and dark in winter, or stuffy and dark in the summer? If your home has too small or too few windows, it can be difficult to get the natural light and ventilation you crave, and need for good health. You may look around your digs and think, "this place could stand some more windows," but have no clue if it's feasible to add them or how to get started.

Cutting a hole in a wall or roof can be a scary prospect for homeowners, but adding windows, roof windows or skylights isn't as hard as you might think. What's more, properly installed windows, roof windows or skylights can be a highly rewarding way to improve a home's air quality, energy efficiency, healthfulness and visual appeal while making it a more pleasant place to be every day.

If you're unsure what type of window or skylight might be right for you, here's a rundown of the basics:

Vertical windows

Unless you live in a bunker, your home already has vertical windows (in the walls) and the support structure for them was incorporated into the wall when the home was built. Replacing an existing under-sized vertical window with a larger one should be an easy task for a professional. Installing a new window where none existed before is slightly more complex. The installers may need to add support to ensure the new opening doesn't compromise the wall's ability to support the weight of the roof and/or story above it.

Vertical windows fall into several types, including:
  • Double-hung/single hung - Double-hung windows can open from the top or bottom, while single hung open only from the bottom. These are the most common types of wall windows used in modern homes.
  • Casement- Often, but not always, narrow and vertical, casement windows open outward using a crank handle.
  • Fixed - These windows don't open. Typically, picture or bay windows are fixed.
  • Awning - Often used above or below fixed windows, awning windows flip outward from the top or bottom.
  • Sliders - These windows open by sliding either to the left or right, and they're common in contemporary or modern designs.

Roof windows

Most traditional windows admit light at the wall level, while skylights bring light into the home from above. Roof windows are somewhat of a hybrid in that they combine some of the best qualities of both vertical windows and skylights. They are located within reach and are operated by hand, and they can provide a great view of both the landscape and sky.

Roof windows are large enough and quickly open wide enough to allow a person to easily exit a room for roof maintenance or in an emergency. This makes them a logical choice for locations where building codes require a method of egress. Roof windows can be fitted with a variety of blinds and insect screens and are very often the choice for attic conversions and other applications where sloped walls or rooflines are within reach.


Skylights are often the daylighting solution of choice for rooms with limited wall space or where privacy is paramount (such as bathrooms and bedrooms), but they can be a practical, attractive and cost-effective way to increase natural light and passive ventilation in any room or space in the home.

New or replacement skylights are available in fixed or venting, fresh air models. Energy Star-qualified, no-leak, solar-powered fresh-air skylights from VELUX operate by remote control to provide passive ventilation as well as natural light. You can add solar-powered blinds in designer colors and patterns to either fixed or fresh-air skylights, further enhancing their energy efficiency while allowing you complete control over the amount of light and air that enters the room through the units.

Installing new skylights or replacing older glass or plastic bubble skylights with solar-powered fresh air models, plus solar blinds, can qualify you for a 30 percent federal tax credit on the products as well as the installation costs.

Skylights are also available for rooms with no direct roof access; Sun Tunnel tubular skylights are an inexpensive way to brighten up smaller half baths, closets, hallways and other interior areas of the home. Light kits are available for 24/7 illumination.

Better light from above

A study by the Danish Building Research Institute shows that roof windows and skylights provide both more light and better quality light - twice as much as vertical windows and three times as much as dormers. Skylights deliver balanced light to the core of a room and brighten the space with less glare while requiring a smaller square footage of glass.

Whether you're planning replacement work or a new installation, professionally installed vertical windows, roof windows and skylights can help brighten your home, provide better air quality and make any space more enjoyable.